It seems that it was not all that long ago, the two words “social” and “distancing” would most likely never be used side-by-side. But here we are, in July of 2020, practicing social distancing in many aspects of our lives. I was at my local convenience store the other day and snapped this photo. No, my shoes are not the centerpiece, the floor marker is. “Wait Here, Thank you, Social Distancing” it reads, and there are several more on the floor as you walk towards the register. While I did not measure, one can only assume that they are six feet apart. I don’t have to explain why, but I would have if a time-traveler from January 2020 came and saw them. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the statement that we are living in strange times.
And, in these strange times, people are polarized on the topics of social distancing, mask wearing, and all the various conspiracy theories regarding the virus, COVID-19. You have some states trying to shut down businesses, schools, churches, but letting “protests” and other events go on undisturbed. You have other states seemingly set on fully reopening. Well, you get the idea. You’ve probably watched all of this in the news.
Jesus, in Matthew 22, was confronted with the question, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:36). Jesus answered with two:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, ESV)
I am not writing here to wax poetic on one side or another of the conspiracies and issues regarding social distancing. I am, however, here to give my two cents, biblically speaking, regarding what is going on. First and foremost, we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Jesus also said that if we are His disciples, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15). So, being obedient is one of the main ways we display our love for Jesus, our love for God.
So, this leads me to the second greatest commandment, to, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Honestly, as a country, I think we are doing a pretty poor job at loving our neighbors. And as Christians, from what I have seen on social media especially, we aren’t doing much better. While I am blessed to be in a church where people recognize and respect their differing opinions and feelings regarding these issues, many are not. I have seen such hate and vitriol spewed from the mouths of so-called believers, all in the name of “social distancing”, even in the name of “loving your neighbors”. While yes, wearing a mask is considered by many a way of loving your neighbor, so is being considerate of others’ choice to not wear a mask.
Would we want to treat ourselves with such hate and disdain as we see our brothers and sisters in Christ do so over masks and social distancing? I would surely hope not. We must love, not hate, our neighbors as ourselves. But we must also remember that love isn’t always nice and fluffy. So, if we do criticize a fellow believer for wearing a mask, or not wearing one, we need to do so lovingly and make sure they know that you are doing so out of love and respect. Remember, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6). Someone who truly loves us and cares for us will value us enough to confront us when they feel the need to. And when confronted, we must remember they are doing so because they love us and care for us.
Like it or not, social distancing and everything that comes with it is here to stay. Whether you practice it or not is up to you. Here is my exhortation: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:35, ESV). When dealing with our brothers and sister in Christ, regardless of their position, we must love one another and do so respectfully. People will see Christians from both sides of the debate coexisting with one another, loving one another, serving one another. That is the witness we must send, so that people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples.